Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Richard Bushman Recounts His Youthful Faith Crisis

In a recent post about the Book of Mormon musical, famed LDS scholar Richard Bushman recounted his own faith crisis around the time of his mission. I found it quite interesting in the way - maddeningly vague though it is - that Bushman presents himself coming to grips with his crisis and regaining faith in the Book of Mormon:
I had my Elder Price moment, as many Mormons do, but during my sophomore year at Harvard. Writing a paper on Nietzsche and Freud had raised lots of questions about religion in general.

When I went off to Halifax to preach the gospel, I was pretty shaky in my belief. For three months I wrestled with questions about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. Was it a hoax, a bold, fraudulent effort to create a myth? Had Joseph Smith hoodwinked his friends - and the rest of his followers including me?

I studied everything and prayed hard for some kind of light. In time I arrived at a rational explanation that allowed for a miracle in the book's production, but along the way I experienced something more important than the book itself. I caught a glimpse of a higher form of human flourishing, something forceful and ennobling which I can only call sacred. It was this encounter with a kind of elevated goodness in the book that won me over.


  1. I didn't know he served in Halifax. I wonder if I met him there? Anyone know when he served?

  2. Clark, judging from what I can see via Amazon of Bushman's contribution to Believing History: Latter-day Saint Essays, Bushman would've served his mission sometime during the tenure of mission president J. Howard Maughan during the early 1950s.